India May Repeal Homosexuality Law

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DELHI, India – The country’s second national Gay Pride march was held in New Delhi as Indian officials prepare to repeal an anti-gay law despite opposition from religious and some political leaders.  India is one of the few democracies in the world that still criminalizes homosexuality.

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was drafted in 1860 by the British and criminalizes consensual sex between adults of the same gender.  Those found guilty are punishable by a 10-year jail sentence.

Spokesman for the opposition party, Sidharth Nath Singh, said, “This is a sensitive issue and warrants a debate within the Indian society at large before arriving at any decision,” and the party’s leader remarked that the government should not make changes to the law in haste, adding that India is neither Europe nor America.  India’s Law Minister also stated, “[W]e are not going to rush to any conclusion.  We will certainly take into account concerns of all sections….”

Conversely, India’s religious leaders oppose repealing the law.  Babu Joseph of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India said, “[W]e are certainly in principle against legalizing [homosexuality], because that would mean the state endorsing same-sex relationships,” and homosexuality “violates fundamental norms of a family.”  India’s Muslim leaders also oppose repealing the anti-gay law saying, “Islam does not allow any unnatural act.  No Muslim in the world, let alone India, can ever support it.”

India gay Source: Times Online

However, activists are claiming that the homosexuality law violates India’s Constitution, which guarantees all citizens right to equality and personal liberty, and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Supporters of repealing the law also say that the anti-gay law makes it hard for HIV infected gay men to seek medical treatment.  A local NGO has challenged the law’s constitutionality with the Delhi High Court, and the ruling is expected next month.

For more information, please see:

Asian Tribune – India will repeal anti-gay law but in a hurry, says Law Minister Moily – 29 June 2009

CNN – India faith leaders: Anti-gay law must stay – 29 June 2009

Times Online – India to repeal anti-gay law as second Gay Pride is held – 29 June 2009

China to Minimize Executions

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – The Supreme People’s Court of China, which has the power of final approval for death penalty cases, announced that the Court would cut down on the number of annual executions and impose more suspended death sentences.

Death penalty(Source: AsiaNews)

China is considered to be the world’s top executioner.  According to Amnesty International, at least 7,000 Chinese have been sentenced to death and 1,718 people were executed in 2008, which is 72% of the world’s total number of people executed.  The exact number of executions is a state secret in China.

The death penalty applies to 60 offenses in China, including non-violent crimes like tax fraud and embezzlement.  However, after China gave the Supreme People’s Court the power to review death penalty cases from the lower courts two years ago, there have been fewer executions.  One Chinese newspaper reported that the Supreme People’s Court overturned 10% of the death penalty cases in 2008.

China_death_penalty Murder convict being taken away to be executed in Guangzhou (Source: Reuters)

Zhang Zun, the vice-president of the Supreme People’s Court said, “As it is impossible for the country to abolish capital punishment under current realities and social security conditions, it is an important effort to strictly control the application of the penalty by judicial organs.”  Zhang added, “Judicial departments should use the least number of death sentences possible,” and use capital punishment only against “those who have committed extremely…heinous crimes that lead to grave social consequences.”

However, rights groups have been concerned because Chinese officials are alleged to have remarked that violent protesters of the riots that took place in Xinjiang region earlier this month would be executed. 

One human rights group researcher, Si-si Liu, expressed her concern saying, “We question how this kind of sentencing decision, which only courts should be eligible to make can be made by people outside the judicial system.”

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – China to cut down on executions – 29 July 2009

BBC – China to cut down number of executions – 29 July 2009

Guardian – China to restrict death penalty and cut executions – 29 July 2009

Khmer Rouge Survivor Testifies at UN-Backed Tribunal

By Alishba I. Kassim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – One of the last remaining survivors, Vann Nath, of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison gave his testimony today at Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal. Also in attendance facing charges was Comrade Duch (a.k.a. Kaing Guek Eav), a senior Khmer Rouge official in charge of the infamous prison. Up to 16,000 men, women, and children were tortured under his command and later taken away to be executed in the late 1970’s. Vann Nath is one of only seven to have survived the prison, and only one of three currently living.

“The conditions were so inhumane and the food was so little…I even thought eating human flesh would be a good meal,” Vann Nath told the UN-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh. During his testimony, Nath, now 67, told the tribunal that he was fed twice a day, and each meal consisted of three teaspoons of rice porridge. “We were so hungry, we would eat insects that dropped from the ceiling… We would quickly grab and eat them so we could avoid being seen by the guards.”

Nath testified that he only survived his imprisonment at the jail and was spared torture because Comrade Duch liked his paintings of the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot. Comrade Duch is the first senior Khymer Rouge leader to face trial and the only one to take responsibility for his actions. Duch is charged with crimes against humanity and is the first of five defendants scheduled for trials by the UN-assisted tribunal. The four other Khmer officials will face trial in the coming year.

Duch himself has previously testified that being sent to Tuol Sleng prison was “tantamount to a death sentence,” and that he was only following orders to ensure his own safety. Earlier in his trial, the 66-year-old admitted responsibility for his role as governor of the jail, and begged forgiveness from his victims. The Khmer regime’s policies caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people nationwide through execution, torture, disease, and malnutrition.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Khmer Rouge Survivor Testifies – June 29, 2009

CBC News – Ex-Khmer Rouge Prisoner Testifies at Trial in Cambodia – June 29, 2009

Reuters – Pol Pot Paintings Saved my Life – June 29, 2009

Moroccan Activist Sentenced to Three Years for Contempt

By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RABAT, Morocco– On June 24, Moroccan human rights activist Chekib El-Khiari, was sentenced to three years imprisonment for “gravely insulting state institutions” and for minor violations of Moroccan foreign account regulations. In addition, El-Khiari has been fined about 753,000 dirhams (US $90,360) for his actions. El-Khiari has been actively speaking out against Morocco’s drug policies for several years.

Human Rights Activist Chekib El-Khiari, Image Courtesy of Global Voices Online

El-Khiari was convicted of “gravely insulting state institutions” for his criticism that Morocco is failing to regulate and reign in the drug trade. This crime carries a maximum sentence of one month to one year imprisonment and a fine between 1,200 and 5,000 dirhams (US $144 to US $600), according to the Moroccan Penal code articles 263 and 265.

El-Khiari was also convicted of violating Moroccan foreign finance regulations for opening a bank account abroad in Melilla, in which he deposited € 225 (US $288) after he received authorization from the Moroccan exchange office. This money was payment for an article that El-Khiari wrote for the Spanish daily El País in 2006.

Human Rights Watch has speculated that the financial charges were only added in order to increase the maximum sentence El-Khiari could receive, and to further discredit El-Khiari and his statements. “Morocco is opening up in some respects, but its treatment of Chekib El-Khiari shows that when someone speaks out in ways that truly bother officials, they come down on him like a ton of bricks,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. Whitson further charged that the verdict against El-Khiari violates the basic right of freedom of expression, and that the verdict was meant to silence other activists in Morocco’s Rif region and to intimidate others.

Moroccan news agency MAP reported that Khayari also has been accused of taking money from foreign leaders in order to lead a campaign to discredit Moroccan efforts to stop drug trafficking.
El-Khiari is being held at Oukacha Prison in Casablanca, and his lawyers are planning to appeal the June 24 verdict.    

For more information, please see:

E-Taiwan News- Moroccan Activist Gets 3 Years in Jail on Contempt– 26 June 2009

Global Voices Online – Morocco: Human Rights Activist Jailed for Whistleblowing– 26 June 2009

Reuters- Morocco Court Jails Critic of Govt Drugs Policy– 24 June 2009

Human Rights Watch- Morocco: Narco-Traffic Whistleblower Unfairly Sentenced-24 June 2009

BRIEF: UN Works with Fiji Security Forces to Ban Torture

SUVA, Fiji – The United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights is helping Fiji’s security forces ensure that detainees will not be tortured or ill-treated.

International law dictates that torture or ill-treatment of those arrested or detained is illegal. Matilda Bogner, a regional representative, said that Fiji already has a strong commitment to banning torture and ill treatment.

At the same time, Bogner says she has worked closely with Fiji Police and the Prison Authority to educate them not to take the law into their own hands, but to defer to the proper legal authority.

Bogner was also careful to point out that Fiji is not unique, and it is crucial that the UN work with other countries around the world to educate and eradicate torturous treatment of those who are arrested or detained. The UN hopes to work harmoniously together with local security forces to address these human rights issues.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – UN works on torture ban in Fiji – 28 June 2009

Thai Red Shirts Stage Anti-Government Rally

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand – In one of the biggest demonstrations to take place in the recent months, more than 30,000 Thai “red shirts” gathered in Bangkok for an anti-government rally.  The “red shirts” were silenced when the government threatened a crackdown back in April after the protest led to the worst street violence in 15 years.

Thai red shirts “Red shirt” protesters in Bangkok (Source: AP)

“Red shirts” are members of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD).  Thai society is divided into either “red” or “yellow” shirts, the “reds” representing Thais in rural areas who support the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the “yellows” comprising Thai’s urban elite who consider the red shirts as a threat to the Thai monarchy.

Thaksin, who is currently in exile, addressed the crowd via telephone saying, “We come here because we want to see true democracy.  We loathe injustice.  We loathe double standards.  We’re here to say if you want us to stop, then return justice and true democracy.”

Supporters of Thaksin said they are calling for the current prime minister’s resignation, the dissolution of the government and for general elections.  The protesters also accuse the “yellows,” which include the military, judiciary and other unelected officials, of undermining Thailand’s democracy and orchestrating a coup back in 2006.

Nuttawut Saikua, one of the organizers of this rally, said, “We rally today because we want to get rid of the government, the aristocracy and bring back true democracy to people.”

UDD has planned three more protests in addition to this rally in Bangkok although the timing for the next rallies has not been set.  UDD’s leader Jatuporn Promphan explained that his group will evaluate several factors such as the political situation before determining the date for each rally.
For more information, please see:

BBC – Thai protesters return to streets – 27 June 2009

China View – Renewed Thai anti-gov’t rally peaceful, to disperse on Sunday morning – 27 June 2009

MSNBC – Thousands of anti-govt protesters mass in Bangkok – 27 June 2009

Palestinian Journalists Caught in Political Power Struggle

By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RAMALLAH, West Bank – On June 22, Palestinian government forces shut down the offices of As-Subeh (The Morning) and detained the newspaper’s chief editor, Sari Al-Qudweh.

The closure and arrest are the latest in a troubling trend in the Palestinian Territories, as journalists are entangled in the power struggle between the competing Hamas and Fatah parties.  In May 2009, Oussid Amarena of the Al-Aqsa television network was arrested, as was Mustapha Sabri, bureau chief for the pro-Hamas newspaper Filasteen.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a report in May 2009 that since Hamas gained power in Gaza in 2007, media organizations in the Palestinian Territories have increasingly split along party lines, and have suffered threats on both sides.  While journalists in pro-Hamas organizations are detained in the West Bank, those working for pro-Fatah outlets are threatened by Gaza police.  Many journalists have been repeatedly arrested, while others have had passports revoked.  Those arrested are rarely charged with any crimes.  Reporters Without Borders has condemned the targeting of reporters by the opposing parties.

“Journalists are again paying the price of the political tension between the different Palestinian factions,” the press freedom advocacy group said in a recent statement.  “The Palestinian Authority does not allow any view but its own to be voiced in the West Bank and does not hesitate to harass pro-Hamas journalists.  The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip is no better.”

The Palestinian journalists’ union has also openly criticized the recent arrests and has called for the release of the detained journalists, saying in a statement that journalists should not be the target of political conflicts.  Both Hamas and Fatah have bans on publications they perceive as partisan.  The UNHCR reports that coercive measures by both parties have forced Palestinian journalists into self-censorship and have stifled freedom of information in the Palestinian Territories.

For more information, please see:

Ma’an News Agency – De Facto Government Shuts Down Gaza Newspaper, Detains Chief Editor – 24 June 2009

Reporters Without Borders – More Journalists Arrested as a Resule of Tensions Between Palestinian Factions   – 29 May 2009

UNHCR – World Report 2009—Palestinian Territories – 1 May 2009    

Committee to Protect Journalists – Two Journalists Released in West Bank, One Still in Prison – 3 March 2009

CNW Telbec – Palestinian Territories: Arbitrary Detention of Journalists Continues as a Result of Tension Between Hamas and Fatah – 29 August 2008

Kazakhstan to Tighten Internet Control

By Alishba I. Kassim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

ALMATY, Kazakhstan – Kazakhstan’s parliament has approved a law tightening government control of the internet. The new bill will subject chat rooms, blogs, and other social networking sites to potential criminal prosecution.

Media activists in Kazakhstan have been opposing the law and say it will vastly limit freedom of speech, and is designed to allow arbitrary crackdowns on anyone opposing Nursultan Kazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s president.

Kazakh authorities have denied the media’s allegations, and instead maintain that the new law is aimed to curb the distribution of child pornography, extremist literature, and other “unsuitable” material. “The law is not a regulation of the internet. The amendments introduced to the law are aimed at stopping the dissemination of illegal information on the internet,” the government’s state information agency said.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Europe’s main human rights and security agency, has criticized the bill. Miklos Harszti, a representative on media freedom, said the law “limits the freedom of the internet and media freedom in general. Its adoption would be a step backwards in the democratization of Kazakhstan’s media governance.”

He further said that Kazakhstan is due to take over chairmanship of the OSCE in six months and “refusing to enact this law will send a strong signal that the forthcoming OSCE chairmanship of Kazakhstan in 2010 intends to fully honor the country’s OSCE media freedom commitments.”

Several leaders from Kazakhstan’s political opposition as well as the media community have started to stage small protests in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Kazakhstan to Tighten Internet Law – June 26, 2009

Daily Times – Kazakhstan Adopts Tough Internet Law – June 25, 2009

Radio Liberty – Kazakhstan Adopts Controversial Internet Law – June 25, 2009

French Polynesian Nuclear Test Veterans Denied Compensation

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

PAPEETE, French Polynesia – French Polynesia’s Nuclear Workers’ Association, Moruroa E. Tatou, is dismayed that the Papeete labor court has thrown out compensation claim cases by eight former test site workers. This morning, the court found that under local law the complaints cannot be ruled on.

However, the court found that the Atomic Energy Commissariat had failed in its obligation as an employer to provide security and awarded 11,000 US dollars to each of the three children of a deceased local veteran.

French Polynesians who have had their claims for compensation for the effects of nuclear testing rejected say they won’t give up their bids for redress.

John Doom, of Moruroa E. Tatou, says eight people who took their cases to French Polynesia’s industrial relations tribunal were unsuccessful.

He says the three surviving workers have leukemia, and they and the five widows will consult with lawyers over how to continue with their bids.

“We will not give up anyhow, we will continue this fight and represent again the three who were not accepted, and these three have leukemia,” said Doom.

For more information, please see:
New Zealand International Radio – Former Moruroa workers fail in nuclear testing compensation bids – 26 June 2009

New Zealand International Radio – French Polynesian test veterans dismayed at Tahiti court decision – 26 June 2009

Radio Australia – French Polynesia rejects nuclear compensation – 26 June 2009

Journalists Arrested Daily in Iran

By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – The BBC, Newsweek, and the Washington Times are among several western news organizations that have recently announced that their correspondents in Iran have disappeared or been detained, allegedly as a result of the Iranian government’s crackdown on media freedom.

Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that advocates for freedom of the media, condemned the disappearances, along with the arrests of several Iranian journalists.  The organization also reported that the entire editorial staff of Kalemeh Sabz, a newspaper owned by opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, was arrested by plain clothes agents from the office of Tehran’s prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi.  Mortazavi has previously come under international scrutiny due to implications of torture, illegal detentions, and the coercion of false confessions.

“Iran is in the midst of a violent and arbitrary crackdown on reformist protesters that has already claimed lives and has led to over a thousand arrests,” said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.  “The role of Mortazavi in the crackdown suggests that the authorities are preparing to bring trumped-up charges against its opponents.”

Some Iranian reporters have begun to publicly advocate for media freedom.  On June 23, 180 Iranian journalists wrote an open letter to Iran’s government and the public, protesting the “deplorable and critical” state of Iran’s media and calling upon the government to abide by the Iranian constitution and to allow reporters to do their duty.  As of June 25, the Committee to Protect Journalists estimated that approximately forty journalists and media workers had been arrested by the Iranian government since the election on June 12.  One media outlet has declared that Iran is now the world leader in imprisoning journalists.

President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pottering, said that he planned to visit Iran, on an invitation of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.  Ebadi told Reporters Without Borders that she has urged Pottering and the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, to condemn Iran’s media repression and to investigate human rights abuses against journalists.

For more information, please see:

Committee to Protect Journalists – More Journalists Arrested in Iran; CPJ Seeks Their Release – 25 June 2009

Reporters Without Borders – Confessions, Arrests and a Campaign Against the Media – 25 June 2009

Washington Times – Washington Times Reporter Arrested in Iran – 24 June 2009

Human Rights Watch – Iran: Violent Crackdown on Protestors Widens – 23 June 2009

IFEX – Three More Journalists Detained, BBC Correspondent to be Deported – 22 June 2009

Formal Arrest Made in China of Prominent Activist

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China– Liu Xiaobo, one of China’s most prominent political activists, was formally arrested after being held for six months in a secret Beijing location.  Liu was taken from his home and held by the police without formal notification to his family until yesterday.

Liu XiaoboLiu Xiaobo (Source: BBC)

The police took Liu away one day before the publication of “Charter 08,” a document he co-authored with 300 other intellectuals calling for a new constitution, human rights, elections, freedom of speech and religion in China, and to end the Communist Party’s control over the military, courts and the government.

Beijing’s public security bureau claimed Liu is being arrested for “spreading of rumours and defaming of the government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialism system in recent years.”

Despite Chinese government’s allegations, there has been global support for Liu’s release.  Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi wrote to China’s president asking for the release of Liu and other “prisoners of conscience.”

In addition, Amnesty International said, “This use of state security charges to punish activists for merely expressing their views must stop.  This is another act of desperation by a regime that is terrified of public opinion.”

Charter 08, published on the 60th anniversary of the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, also called for the abolition of a Chinese criminal code that allows imprisonment for “incitement to subvert state power,” which is the crime Liu is accused of committing.

Fighting back tears, Liu’s wife said, “I am so worried about him.  I don’t know how many more years he will be imprisoned now.”  She was allowed to see Liu during a supervised visit back in March where she noticed that he looked thin and pale.

The charge against Liu carries maximum of 15 years in jail, and Liu’s arrest is the highest-profile arrest of Chinese activists since last year.

For more information, please see:

AP – China arrests dissident who championed reforms – 24 June 2009

BBC – China activist formally arrested – 24 June 2009

CBS News – Chinese Media Says Dissident Liu Xiaobo Arrested – 24 June 2009

China Digital Times – Chinese Dissident Liu Xiaobo Formally Arrested – 23 June 2009

China Digital Times – Dissident Writer Liu Xiaobo Held in Secret after Sentence Ends – 9 June 2009

French Polynesian Court Rules For Nuclear Test Veteran

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

PAPEETE, French Polynesia – French Polynesian court has ruled in favor of three children of a deceased nuclear weapons test veteran who sought compensation for the effects of the tests.

The court found that the Atomic Energy Commissariat had failed in its obligation as an employer to provide security and ordered that each claimant be paid 11,000 US dollars.

The Nuclear Workers’ Association Moruroa E. Tatou has expressed disappointment at the low compensation sum. However, today’s decision coincided with the French parliament beginning debates on a landmark bill for compensating the victims of nuclear tests carried out in French Polynesia and Algeria over more than three decades.

About 150,000 civilian and military personnel took part in 210 nuclear tests carried out in the Sahara desert and the Pacific between 1960 and 1996, many of whom later developed serious health problems.

The government unveiled a bill on compensating the test victims in March, after decades of denying its responsibility for fear the admission would have weakened its nuclear program during the Cold War.

Under the bill, which is to be put to the vote on June 30, a nine-member committee of physicians, led by a magistrate, will examine individual claims for compensation.

Defense Minister Herve Morin told the lower-house National Assembly that the bill, thirteen years after the end of the tests in the Pacific, will allow France to serenely close a chapter of its history.

For more information, please see:

New Zealand International Radio – French Polynesian Court rules in favour of nuclear test veteran’s children – 25 June 2009

New Zealand International Radio – France begins debating nuclear compensation bill – 25 June 2009

Australian News – French debate nuclear test compo – 26 June 2009

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb Responsible for Increasing Violence in Algeria

By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ALGIERS, Algeria–  On June 23, five parliamentary police were killed by insurgents, and two more were kidnapped in the Khenchela province of Algeria. This attack follows the June 19 ambush, which killed eighteen officers and one civilian. Additionally, the attack this month follows the murder of British hostage Edwin Dyer, and the killing of five paramilitary gendarmes and the shooting of nine Algerian soldiers.

“AQIM,” or al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has claimed responsibility for the attacks in early June, and the large ambush on June 19. This group is an independent group of Islamic militants that waged a civil war against the Algerian government in the 1990s, which killed well over 100,000 civilians. In 2006 the group joined Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist organization under the name al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

AQIM regularly targets government forces, though the number of  attacks in the past month have significantly increased  from the past few years. Before the June 19 attack, the Algerian ruling elite had been discussing a plan to reduce violence by granting amnesty to some al Qaeda militants. The plan would have extended the offer of amnesty to higher officials. Algeria was basing the plan off of a similar plan that was used in Saudi Arabia to end a three year insurgency there by al Qaeda.

Farouk Ksentini, the President of the National Advisory Commission for the Promotion of Human Rights in Algeria, stated that general amnesty would be a good way to reduce the recent violence, in an interview before the June 19 attack. However, this theory was not welcomed among some Algerians, who would prefer the militants to go to trial and be judged for their actions.  Even in Saudi Arabia, the rate of recidivism for those granted amnesty is high.

Presently, it appears as though Algeria is not focused on a plan for granting amnesty.  On June 23, following the most recent ambush, Algeria deployed 10,000 soldiers to hunt for the perpetrators of the June 19 attack. The troops have reportedly recovered many weapons, and have arrested several people.

For more information, please see:

Media Line- Algeria Deploys 10,000 Soldiers to Hunt Al-Qa’ida Bombers – 23 June 2009

Reuters- Algerian Insurgents Kill Five Police: Reports– 23 June 2009

AFP – Al-Qaeda Claims Algerian Ambush: SITE – 21 June 2009

Dallas Morning News-  19 Die as Militants Ambush Algerian Police Convoy – 19 June 2009

AP –  Militants Kill at Least 19 in Algeria – 18 June 2009

Reuters- ANALYSIS-Algeria Mulls New Amnesty to Weaken al Qaeda– 17 June 2009

Fiji’s Prime Minister Announces Road Map To Democracy

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – Fiji’s prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, announced he will reveal Fiji’s road map to democracy within the next few days.

While speaking to villagers in Tailevu North on Monday, Bainimarama said a constitution review team would be appointed to look at a new constitution and electoral changes.

The speech is one of the first times Bainimarama has publicly spoken about Fiji’s political future and although Bainimarama did not provide a timetable, or framework, it is the first signs of the country gaining a new political and social code since April, when the president annulled the country’s constitution and gave Bainimarama and his government a five-year mandate.

Bainimarama has said repeatedly one of the reasons for the military’s takeover of Fiji was to end racial and social division and Bainimarama’s speech primarily focused on how the new constitution would not tolerate politicians using racial discrimination as a tool to win votes. However, just last weekend, all police officers not on duty were required to attend a Christian crusade event. The country’s ethnic make-up means its police force has members who are Hindu and Muslim, as well as Christian.

Also, as Bainimarama was speaking of a new constitution, his government extended to August the Public Emergency Rules that limit free media by placing government censors in newsrooms, extend police search and seizure powers, and force organizations to ask for permission to hold meetings.

For more information, please see:
Australia Network News – Fiji’s multi-ethnic police join Christian crusade – 24 June 2009

New Zealand International Radio – New Fiji constitution to be drawn up soon – 24 June 2009

Fiji Sun – WE ARE ONE :PM – 24 June 2009

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited – Censorship extended till August – 24 June 2009

Amnesty International Reports Torture and Abuse by Indonesian Police

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Amnesty International is reporting that Indonesian police regularly torture and abuse suspects held for questioning, in addition to taking bribes in the form of money and sex.

Amnesty International’s report entitled, “Unfinished Business: Police Accountability in Indonesia,” found that the most marginalized people in Indonesian society receive the worst treatment.

The organization’s Asia Pacific deputy director, Donna Guest said that, “Amnesty International’s report shows how widespread the culture of abuse is among the Indonesian police force.” She added, “The police’s primary role is to enforce the law and protect human rights, yet all too often many police officers behave as if they are above the law.”

Rebecca Emery, deputy director for Amnesty International, says that some of these marginalized people are from the Papua region. Papuans have long reported abuse by Indonesian police, and have struggled to gain independence from Indonesia.

“Since the national Indonesian police separated from the military in 1999, it has undertaken significant reforms, even though these reforms have been undertaken, the actual practice with regards to policing haven’t reflected human rights improvements. There’re a lot of violations and abuses, which are still deeply rooted in Indonesian policing,” Ms. Emery said.

The most vulnerable groups include women, drug addicts, and sex workers.

Ms. Emery added that the Indonesian government must recognize these human rights violations and work to stop them.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Amnesty reports serious abuse by Indonesian police – 25 June 2009

BBC News – Indonesia police abuse ‘ongoing’ – 24 June 2009

AFP – Torture ‘widespread’ in Indonesia: Amnesty – 24 June 2009